how sharp should my axe be?

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“The inexperienced and occasional users who are more prone to accidents in the first place, often fail to appreciate the importance of a keen edge 😉 All woodworking tools, including axes, should be sharp enough to shave with for effortless, efficient and enjoyable work 👍 Most new axes require from an hour to a half a day of hand sharpening to put them into proper shape. A dull axe is less efficient and more tiring to use. It is also a greater hazard as it glances more readily. An axe should be sharpened on a regular basis, perhaps with every half-hour of use or each time a tree is cut down. A minute spent on sharpening may shorten your chopping time by 5 minutes.” [1]
Strangely enough, if you search online you’ll find a lot of people who are armchair experts on axes and also strangely enough, they seem to be able to find fault with just about any axe for being short of perfection. Or even a perceived notion of perfection. While one person may be incensed by the state of a given axe, another person may have nothing but high praise for the exact same axe. Perhaps this may be due to variations in the production of axes, or even type of axe, but it may also have something to do with the fact that what people have learned about axes was not learned from an authoritative source. In other words, what was learned may not be correct and so what has become one person’s measure of quality may not actually be the right way to identify how good an axe is. Or conversely, maybe those giving a clean bill of health to a particular axe just have no clue what they’re talking about and why the axe is awful. (we truly appreciate Tristia Willoughby from Oaxaca De Juarez, Mexico for their insights). [2]
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Esperanza Brannon at, mentions how there are, of course, multiple other ways to sharpen your axe. Several sharpening belt machines are perfect for sharpening axes. Take, for instance, the Work Sharp Multi sharpener Ken Onion Edition and the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener. The Ken Onion Edition comes with sharpening belts with grain sizes 120, 220, 1000, 3000 and 6000. As a result you can first remove any imperfections from the blade of the axe and restore the fold, after which you use the other belts to make the edge razor-sharp again. With it you can vary between a 15 degree and a 30 degree angle (and all sizes in between). Perfect, considering the fact you often use a 30 degree angle for axes. (we truly thank Sharra Finch from Daye, China having brought this to our attention). [3]
Step 5: Holding the file at an angle, push the file across the had bitten of the axe away from the cutting edge (towards the poll on a single bit axe). I hold the file handle in my right hand, and stabilize the top of the file in my left hand. Your left hand should be the one changing the angle of your file when necessary. A single cut file will only cut on the push stroke, so lift your file away from the had bitten once you reach the end of your stroke. An angle guide can be used to show you how close you are to the desired primary bevel angle. I like mine around 20-25 degrees for an axe used for chopping. (last modified 18 days ago by Jermine Elam from Salta, Argentina) [4]
Step 1: Moisten the rough side of your sharpening stone (preferably with water).Step 2: Hold the blade in front of you.Step 3: Place the sharpening stone at an angle to the blade, the rough side being in contact with the axe head.Step 4: Start sharpening in smooth circular movements, moving from left to right and in a clockwise direction.Step 5: Turn the axe head over and repeat on the other side.Step 6: You might observe a rough, abrasive paste accumulating on the axe head while you sharpen. Do not wipe it off! It will help your sharpening and make your axe keep its sharpness longer.Step 7: Repeat until the edge feels sharp, then move on to step 4. (last revised 87 days ago by Samad Schmitz from Sylhet, Bangladesh) [5]
Back in my energetic youth I proudly broughtught out a very sharp chopping axe for splitting some elm firewood. It sliced beautifully into the wood and got thoroughly stuck every time. Rather than get smart and switch over to a duller axe (they don’t go in so far to get stuck as easily) I ultimately managed to bury the head without causing the wood to part at all. We have had to use a chain saw to retrieve it. You really don’t want a splitting axe that easily ‘cuts’ into ornery pieces of wood, you want to maximize the wedging action in order to force rounds to ‘split’ apart. (last emended 11 days ago by Danyelle Groves from Binzhou, China) [6]

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Mehreen Alberts

Written by Mehreen Alberts

I'm a creative writer who has found the love of writing once more. I've been writing since I was five years old and it's what I want to do for the rest of my life. From topics that are close to my heart to everything else imaginable!

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